Earlier this year, I posted a letter to my oldest kid, Jackson. As I said then, I love the idea of writing letters to my children. I know that they can’t read yet, but I’m hopeful that I can communicate my hopes for them and the ways that I am praying for them as they grow. I’m hopeful that they will be able to look back on these letters in next seasons of their life while they are discovering more about God and about who they are in Him. There’s no doubt that they will go through some formative years, filled with important decisions and a good amount of confusion. I can’t know the specifics of those situations now, as I look at my two year old daughter, but I pray even now for those moments and ask God often to equip me to be the dad that I need to be for her. I know that the foundation for that starts in these years, as I try to demonstrate for her what love, kindness, and humility should look like, and as I begin to teach her about her heavenly Father and how much He loves her. Being her dad is an incredible joy, but it is also an incredible responsibility that I have a responsibility of fulfilling. I am keenly aware of my inability to fill this role alone, and that I am desperately in need of God’s equipping. I wrote a bit about the account of Solomon asking of God for wisdom and discernment (read here), and I resonate with that ask especially in my role as a dad. I want so badly to be a wise and effective dad for my children’s sake. I know I need God’s help in order to do that.
As I said in regards to my letter to Jackson, these letters are deeply personal for me. They encourage me to pray often for my children and to examine the kind of dad I am being to them. Though these letters are for Mila, I’m hopeful that they might encourage you to examine your hopes for those closest to you and those you may have impact on.
My girl, you are only two years old as I write this letter to you. I’m definitely wishing that I could capture every bit of this age and preserve it forever. You are hysterical as well as sweet and cute. Your personality is so vibrant – you are delicate and sweet, loving to wear your dresses and hair bows, but also bold and strong, ready to run with your older brother and make yourself known. I’m excited to see how that personality of yours continues to shape and blossom as you grow.
As we prepare as a family to welcome a third child, a boy who will make you no longer the youngest kid in the family, I’m thankful that you are my little girl. Having a daughter has already taught me so much, and has at the same struck fear into my heart about the years ahead! Above all, I want you to know that I love you more than I could even begin to express. I pray everyday that I can be the dad that you need, a protector and encourager who will help you along in life. But I want you to know that, as much as my love for you is deeper that I could even begin to describe, God loves you infinitely more than that! He defines love, and will always protect, will always be trustworthy, and will always be there as a source of hope. If you keep your eyes on Him and trust Him to lead your life, you will never be let down.
I can’t wait to share so many experience with you over the years, but I am most hopeful to convey some important truths to you as you grow. I’m asking God that I will not only be able to tell these to you, but demonstrate them through my own life.
I pray every day that you will come to place where you fall in love with Jesus and want to follow Him with your whole life. Your faith and trust in Him will be the most important part of your life, and I pray that He allows you to discover Him in part through my example in your life. No one in your life can take the place of your need for Him, and when you know Him, He will give you joy, identity, and peace.
I pray that you become a woman who is secure in who she is. So many people in this world struggle with that. They feel that they need to measure up, change things about themselves to meet certain “standards” or live their life trying to find approval in others. God has made you so unique and so amazing. Feel secure in that and let God be the only one who defines who you should be.
I pray that you become a woman of strong integrity who speaks truth and love. Live your life in a way that is honorable and pure, and determine to use words to demonstrate kindness rather than hurt. Believe that God will honor your upright ways and bless you as a result.
Mila, I am so excited every day to be your dad and to see you grow into the woman that God has designed you as. No matter what else comes your way, trust that God is faithful and is worth everything to pursue.
I also wrote Mila a letter a few days after she was born. When she was only 10 days old, I wrote this to her:
January 29, 2013
You are just shy of 10 days old as I’m writing this, as it’s 12:30am. Just last Saturday, right before noon, I got to meet you for the very first time. As I heard your little cry and looked into your eyes, I knew my life was forever changed.
I’m up this late because your mom and I are taking shifts. We learned a few things with your brother about sleep deprivation and, we think, came out the other side a bit wiser from those experiences. So far, you’ve been a dream! You’re sleeping and eating well, and Jackson is taking to the notion of having a sister really well. He beams with pride when I ask him “are you a big brother now?” and tries to point to his “Big Brother” sticker that I’ve been putting on him most days since you’ve been home. For the last few days, he’s been excited to give you a kiss goodnight on the forehead before he heads off to bed. We are all so excited that you’re here and have expanded the family!
I said I knew my life was changed forever, and admittedly I have no idea what that looks like. All I know is that I’m both extremely excited and horribly nervous at the notion of having a daughter. I can’t help but let my mind wander into the future, seeing visions of you playing with dolls and girly things (the color pink is quite a new addition in this house already), us dancing together somewhere; you maybe standing on my feet as I move you around the dance floor, and then scarier things like watching you dance with someone other than me (the thought of dating and guys taking interest scares me A LOT) and begin to take interest in boys, dating, marriage…ok I need to stop letting my mind wander.
Quickly I will tell you the story of how you were brought to us, and how our love for you was sparked and grew as we awaited your birth day.
When your mom told me that she was pregnant with you, my emotions, in an instant, ran through trying to grasp what this means, then wonder as to whether we’d have another boy or a girl, then just extreme excitement that our family would be growing! Nine months is such a long time to wait, from that first day of knowing til you actually arrived. Luckily, through a sonogram, we got to cheat a little and peak in on you a few times. I will never forget a few of those moments – 1, the moment we heard your heart beat for the first time, 2, when we got to see you about half way through your stay in the belly, moving and kicking – the sonogram tech said you were even pouting with your lip (not sure what that says for the future…), and then 3, the words “it’s a girl!” I didn’t know what to think – I knew I didn’t know anything, just wow!
All I know for now is that I love you, and I know that now matter how extreme my love for you today is (quite so), it will grow and grow with each passing day. I can’t wait to begin to discover who you are – what your personality will be like, how you’ll find your voice and place in our family, and eventually, in this world. I will do everything I can to demonstrate what true love is, specifically by reflecting Jesus and pointing you toward a relationship of your own with Him. I pray for you every day that you will grow to love Him as your Savior and Lord.
You are a miracle, a true gift from God, and a continuation of the love story that God has written through your mom and I. I’m going to have to learn what it’s like to be the dad of a daughter, and I’m so excited for that process. I’m not afraid to do whatever it takes – I like drinking tea, just will be a bit of an adjustment with some stuffed animals around a short table (see even that depiction proves I know nothing at this point).
I love you Mila Juliette Cook. I am SO thankful that God has brought you here, and I feel so privileged to be your dad. I want to always be there to protect you, provide for you, hug and love you, and do whatever I can to steward the time I have with you for God’s glory.